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This year’s autumn Teachers’ Professional Development Academy (EMTA) at “Erudito” licėjus is all about competency-based learning: What does a quality lesson require?

Every year, during the autumn break, the EMTA courses at “Erudito” licėjus have become a traditional two-day event for the teacher community, where primary and upper primary teachers from both national and international classes share their experiences, discuss pressing issues, and reaffirm (or establish) strategic directions, working methods, and develop new ideas. It’s also an opportunity for everyone to come together and strengthen team and interpersonal relationships – this event is essential for shaping the organization’s culture and values.

Between assessment and self-assessment
Our strength lies in competency-based education. That’s the theme of this autumn’s EMTA. Primary school teachers exchanged insights on the importance of the environment in developing various skills and why it’s crucial to divide the classroom into spaces such as reading, art, experiments, and so on. The “Numbers Speak” method was presented, aimed at encouraging students to apply different strategies to solve simple and later more complex tasks.

So, what makes a good lesson?
“Teacher-student relationship”
“Brain Laboratories”
These are just a few of the answers provided by primary school teachers. The core of a lesson is its structure. According to teachers, the structural elements can be changed and mixed, but the lesson’s objective must always be clear. Various teaching methods help achieve this goal: reinforcing methods, appropriately selected methods, active methods that engage students, and the flipped classroom method. However, even the right methods may suit different groups differently; what works for one class might not work for another.

A critical part of a lesson is reflection. It includes specific questions during the lesson, fostering critical thinking and self-awareness. Some students prefer verbal reflection, while written reflection is more effective – it helps organize experiences and provides an objective self-assessment.

Self-assessment is an essential part of a teacher’s work, just like assessment. Reflection is beneficial for teachers, helping them evaluate and differentiate students’ knowledge. One group concluded that in the evaluation process, which includes “emotional” (praise, constructive criticism, rewards, comments) and “technical” (grades, scoring, a plus and minus system, reports, and comments) assessments, praise and rewards have the least impact. The most motivating factors are internal motivation, constructive criticism, and comments (behavior notes).

Creating the Classroom Atmosphere
The environment and microclimate of the lesson are crucial for the relationship between the teacher and the student. A clean, organized, subject-appropriate environment is important for both students and teachers. Trust, empathy, professionalism, respect, and tolerance (setting boundaries is important) are mentioned as factors that contribute to improving the microclimate. Agreements and building relationships are important not only between the teacher and the class but also within the class, among students.

Reflection and asking the right questions are essential for building relationships. Specific questions at the end of the lesson, helping both the teacher and students identify what worked and what didn’t in the lesson, also contribute to creating a positive microclimate.

Feedback is important for the teacher as well. Lesson observation is one of the tools for this. The teacher and the observer should follow certain rules. The observing teacher should agree on the time, prepare an observation form (what is going well? What suggestions can be made?), which greatly simplifies the self-assessment process, and maintain a positive attitude. The importance of positivity was emphasized by other groups as well. The teacher being observed should remain positive, be enthusiastic about life and their students, stay natural, and – as teachers found equally important – “get sleep, dress well, and have a meal”. The observer should not interfere with the lesson or comment on it, should be friendly, have a clear purpose for the observation, know what to evaluate, not assess the entire lesson, highlight strengths, and package weaknesses as “sandwiches” (praise-criticism-praise), provide suggestions, praise, be attentive, discreet, show respect, ask questions for self-reflection. The results of the observation should be discussed at a pre-arranged time, preferably over a cup of coffee.